Vision therapy, also called vision training/orthoptics, is an individualized program of eye training procedures use to improve or correct certain vision problems. It involves a series of treatments during which carefully planned procedures are carried out by the patient under professional supervision in order to improve vision skills such as eye movement control, eye focusing and coordination, and the teamwork of the two eyes.
Optometrists use vision therapy to treat problems in a person’s vision information processing system, which includes the eyes, the eye muscles, the brain, and the connections in between. The most common of these are vision problems that interfere with the ability to learn (visual perceptual skills) are eye muscle coordination problems, lazy eye and crossed-eyes.
There are different vision therapy programs. Orthoptics is one of them. Optometrists and ophthalmologists have been using it for decades to treat crossed-eyes.
Seeing problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism involve an abnormality in some part of the eyeball itself. Problems in the vision information processing system occur in the neural pathways between the eyes and the brain. They may involve a lack of development of some neural pathways used for seeing or a breakdown of those pathways. The breakdown can be caused by a lack of use, stress on the eyes or by insult or trauma to the brain and/or the eye.
Like many skills, vision skills are learned and developed. People who lack a vision skill can learn or develop it by using it over and over again. A vision therapy program helps them do this by providing repetitive tasks geared to the person’s vision problems.
There are many studies proving the effectiveness of vision therapy in treating the varied problems that can occur within the vision information processing system. For example, studies indicate that 75% of people with crossed-eyes and 85% of children with vision-related learning disabilities can be helped by vision therapy. The American Optometric Association has other studies concerning other vision conditions on file. However, it should be noted that success is not guaranteed. Much depends on the patient’s motivations.
It is common knowledge that the more motivated we are to learn something, the more effort we will put into the learning process and the quicker we will learn. Vision therapy is really a learning experience. The highly motivated vision therapy patient cooperates readily with the optometrist, is willing to stick with the program and will carry out homework assignments properly. This does not mean, however, that a poorly motivated person should not begin a vision therapy program. Usually, motivation increases rapidly as the patient begins to see positive results of early efforts, however meager those efforts may be.
No. Vision therapy can help adults with learning-related vision problems as well as adults who want to acquire or sharpen vision skills they need to perform their job better or enjoy their hobbies and recreational activities more. Today, many professional and Olympic athletes use sports vision therapy programs to give themselves an extra competitive edge by sharpening their vision skills.
The length of time required to complete a vision therapy program varies. It depends upon the type of vision problem(s), how long the condition has existed, the motivation of the patient and the level of improvement desired. A typical therapy program may take from a few weeks to several months.
State laws stipulate that vision therapy is part of the practice of optometry. Some optometrists limit their practice to vision therapy, but most offer it as a specialty within a general practice. Recently, people calling themselves vision therapists have appeared on the scene. These people are not optometrists. Some are opportunists. Many have assembled a limited program, taking something from here and there. Some of the procedures they use have been proven ineffective. They do not adhere to a specific body of knowledge, as optometrists do, nor are they state licensed. They also cannot determine and provide needed lens prescriptions that are frequently a key part of any vision therapy program. Consumers who think they may have a need for vision therapy would be better off seeking the services of a licensed optometrist who offers vision therapy.